Complementary Alternative Medicine, Health is Wealth, Wellness Wednesday

What the Rolf?

Let me paint a picture for you before we begin. Imagine you are getting dressed in the morning and you tuck your shirt into your pants. Now, as you are walking around you notice that you’ve tucked your shirt in too tight and it’s pulling at your neckline. How do you fix this problem? Do you try to loosen it from the neck? Of course not, you know it’s because you’ve tucked in too much of your shirt and you therefore loosen it from your waistline.

Okay. Now let’s apply this concept to the fascia of your body. What is fascia? In the most basic of analogies, fascia is like this cellophane-like layer that runs throughout your body, lining and encasing your organs. This fascia/connective tissue has the ability to get too tight and constrict various internal parts of your body (much like your over tucked in shirt). So how do we know where to relieve the tightness from? You can’t just casually untuck something under your skin. But you know what can? Rolfing.

What is Rolfing? How is it different from massage?

“Rolfing is a system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education that organizes the whole body in gravity. Rolfing bodywork affects the body’s posture and structure by manipulating the myofascial system (connective tissue). Often considered a deep-tissue approach, Rolfing bodywork actually works with all the layers of the body to ease strain patterns in the entire system.” (1)

How is it different from massage?

“Through soft tissue manipulation and movement education, Rolfers affect body posture and structure over the long-term. Unlike massage, which often focuses on relaxation and relief of muscle discomfort, Rolfing is aimed at improving body alignment and functioning. Rolfing is different from deep-tissue massage, in that practitioners are trained to create overall ease and balance throughout the entire structure, rather than focusing on areas presenting with tension. As a structure becomes more organized, chronic strain patterns are alleviated, and pain and stress decreases.” (1)

There are many misconceptions out there about this work. In 2010, the NY Times ran an article about rolfing that still comes up at the top of searches and they, unfortunately, focused on the pain associated with getting the work done (2). The work is so much more than a human foam roller. It works to create the proper alignment within the body through the release of constriction and structural integration. The technique was founded by Dr. Ida Rolf. Dr. Rolf posed this fundamental question: “What conditions must be fulfilled in order for the human body-structure to be organized and integrated in gravity so that the whole person can function in the most optimal and economical way?” (3)

So what’s the big deal? Can’t I just get a deep tissue massage, a foam roller, and a lacrosse ball to work out my own issues? Sure. You could do that but this will target in a much more precise way. Rolfer are highly trained individuals that have studied anatomy and the technique endlessly for years. You could try to do this work on yourself but it just wouldn’t be the same as having someone pinpoint target your issue and giving you that release. Once you have the work done you can continue to build your overall health. You can’t just continuously stuff more muscles into a small little tight connective tissue pouch if it isn’t ready to expand with the growth. Overall health has so many different aspects to it that are critical to creating the best overall quality of life and wellbeing.

From personalexperience, I highly recommend trying it. As a long time distance runner (over 10 years of running cross country), I noticed a difference after a single rolfing session. I have had a persistent issue with my knee and ankle since 2008 and no other physical health based practitioner has been able to target it so quickly. I was frequently told that I just run too much or that my body wasn’t built for doing that type of activity. But the rolfer I work with was able to pinpoint that issue right away by just seeing the way I stand and the way in which I curled my toes during weight shifting. I am pretty aware of my body and that is something I had never notced. After the first treatment I was already noticing the difference in my stance and gait (walking pattern). And yes, I will shamelessly promote her because I think she’s an amazing rolfer and human in general: Jessa Zinn.

*Note: CAM = Complementary Alternative Medicine


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